1. How far is a marathon?
This technically shouldn’t be annoying, but if you’ve been training your butt off for months and you have the number 26.2 etched permanently on your brain, taunting your every waking thought and whispering to you in the night, then yes it is rather annoying when someone asks you this question.
How could they not know how long a marathon is? Don’t these people know what you’re going through right now? Don’t they realise it’s the most important number in the whole world?
The best response: ’26.2 damn miles long my friend, and yes I am going to nail it.’
2. What time are you going for?
For a veteran marathoner with a serious goal in mind this is quite fun to answer, but for the uninitiated, this question sucks. If you’ve been following a training plan and tracking your mileage, you can hazard a fairly good guess.
But if it’s your first marathon, worrying about your time only adds to the immense pressure of the day. And chances are the person posing the question doesn’t know how long the average runner takes to complete a marathon anyway.
The best response: ‘I’m planning to have a great time, thanks!’
3. Are you going to win?
Spoken with sarcasm or great sincerity, either way, unless your name is Mo Farah then chances are you don’t want to hear this probing question. Right now, on the cusp of your first marathon you need support, encouragement and foot rubs in your life, not stupid questions.
Dump your friend. Make new ones, who appreciate the enormity of the amazing quest you are about to embark on.
The best response: ‘Hell yes I’m going to win this marathon!’ (In the most enthusiastic, middle-aged person who secretly has no idea what they’re doing while wearing a chicken hat category).
4. Isn’t running bad for your knees?
Now that you’re a long distance runner, prepare to hear this infuriating question every week until the end of time. Ignorant colleagues and nosy neighbours will still be asking you this in years to come, long after they’re immobile and hobbling around with a walking frame and you’re still skipping around marathons with perfect knees in your eighties.
The best response: ‘Yes, which is exactly why I and the 35,000 other people about to run this marathon all had our knees replaced with Peruvian alligator teeth. They’re really far more efficient for road running.’
5. Why aren’t you running for charity?
Many of you will be running for charity, which is amazing and we commend you! But there are a few of us who for one reason or another won’t be, and that’s fine too. If you’ve already run a few races, you’ll know that getting money out of your friends and family is like syphoning blood from a stone, and frankly running 26.2 miles is challenging enough without the added fundraising stress factor.
If you have decided not to raise money, don’t feel guilty about this. Be proud of yourself. Your mere presence on the road will inspire the young people around you to embrace fitness and hopefully motivate them to take up running too. You can’t buy health and happiness.
The best response: ‘I’m running for a special charity called shut up and buy me a beer. I’ll see you at the marathon finish line and look forward to drinking it.’
6. Don’t you get tired?
A classic question, which is infuriating and obvious and one you will have to grapple with on a daily basis. Of course marathon runners get tired. Running 26.2 miles in one go is exhausting, life-changing and magical in equal measure. That’s the whole point. But like warriors of the road we power up on pasta and jelly babies and prepare to do battle with the inner sleepy demons willing us to stop.
We spend anything from 2.2 to 20 hours fighting that tired feeling, and then we win! And when we come out the other side courageously clutching our medals and feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, we sleep for 12 hours and then sign up to another race and prepare to do it all again.
The best response: ‘Yep. But I don’t let that stop me.’
7. Why would you do something daft like run a marathon?
Sadly, if you’re a marathoner you will come across non-believers who don’t understand the many joys of running and want to cut you down a peg or two. These people are projecting their own fears and insecurities onto you, and they’re secretly riddled with jealousy.
Resist the urge to tell them to piss off and pity them instead, because they don’t have access to the glorious gift of running, and their lives are consequently less fabulous.
The best response: ‘I’m running a marathon to invest in my future, prolong my life, achieve personal and spiritual life goals and embrace the magic of race day. Why don’t you join me?’